3 Sep




When I was living in Fresno, not long after being diagnosed with Post Polio Syndrome, I owned a Ford Aerostar Van. It was great…the back seats laid down perfectly flat, forming a “bed” where I lay with my Great Dane, Duchess, on trips that were over a couple of  hours long, with my husband doing all of the driving.  The Van was primarily my vehicle.  It became harder and harder for me to drive.  I had always driven with my right foot on the accelerator and my left foot was used for the brake.  I didn’t have  good enough reaction time to move my right foot over to the brake.  I started having to hold my knee down with my hand at stop lights to keep the brake on…my leg was just too weak to do it alone anymore. 

 I did that a while and then I found that I was having a very hard time steering the van.  A simple trip to the Grocery store, using their in-store “scooters” exhausted me.  So I DID NOT DRIVE AT ALL FOR ABOUT 2 YEARS!  I had completely lost my independence! I was pushed everywhere by my husband. of the best things that happened to me!   

Now, I know that sounds strange….but I have spent a life time turning negatives into positives.  After my husband left me, I was given a scooter lift to attach to the back of a used Dodge Sedan that I purchased when I sold my Van.  I took lessons and learned how to drive with hand controls. It was very scary at first!  My instructor had me on a busy California freeway 30 minutes after teaching me the basics of hand controls! After not driving at all for about 2 years this was so frightening!      




My "Easy Lock is mounted behind the driver's seat. You can mount them so that you can drive from your wheelchair.

 My electric wheelchair backed into an “Easy Lock” where the middle seats would have been, and it still had the rear bench seat for passengers. I had found out by this time, that I could get my steering and brakes reduced by 1/2 effort.  I have absolutely no idea how they do this…but it is a life saver!  They CAN do reduced effort up to 100% but then a non-handicapped person would probably get you killed trying to drive with normal strength!  The Town and Country was plush, but one problem with it was that it bottomed out over every speed bump!  When I started having mechanical problems with it I decided to trade it in.  This van had a 6 way (up/down, forward/back and 180 degree swiveling) seat on the driver’s side.  I had the Easy Lock installed later when it became clear to me that I could not tie my wheelchair down safely with a seat belt!



I love my IMS RampVan!  I was finally able to trade up and get all of the

 “bells and whistles”  



Driver's seat turned toward where my wheelchair is locked down

 I wanted in a wheelchair van that I could drive and could also be driven by an able-bodied person.  Mypresent  van is also a “Kneeling” van…but the ramp comes out from under my car when the van is kneeling while the door is opening.  All of this is controlled by buttons that you push from inside your vehicle.   




I have Reduced Effort (50%) on my steering and brakes. I have an Easy Lock installed behind the driver’s seat for my wheelchair. I have to back my chair up the ramp and into the “Easy Lock.”  It’s not as “Easy” as it looks….going backwards up the ramp!  It took practice!


$$$$$$  MONEY  $$$$$$  

None of these modifications comes cheaply!  A lot of people (non-handicapped) think that the government pays for  vans!  I WISH!  The cost of all of my handicapped equipment alone on my present van was about $23,000…that is added to the basic cost of the van that you want.  Just the Kneeling option adds about $15,000 to your cost of the van.    

My husband, waiting for me to drive into my van


Me exiting my present van with my recline/tilt wheelchair



Because of the huge expense for these specialized vans, some Banks will stretch the loan out longer.  My Town and Country had an 8 year loan on it. It cost me $39,000.   


The Bank (in Georgia) that financed  my first van offered a 10 year loan to those who needed that option. This was 1999.

I financed my new van “normally” for 5 years and it is now MINE!   


You can DEDUCT as a MEDICAL EXPENSE, any equipment that you add to your vehicle to accommodate your wheelchair. So make sure that if you are buying a used one, you get the cost of the handicapped modifications itemized so you can put it on your income tax return.   


??????????      QUESTIONS     ??????????

If you have a question about any of  my equipment or about something thatI haven’t made clear, I’ll be

glad to try to answer it or to refer you to my “expert”. 

There are many Kneeling Vans on the market.  Mine just happen to be IMS.  Braun (used to make them) may still make them. Rollex and VMI are other choices.  If you Google “kneeling Vans” you can find many new and used vans.  Just make sure that wherever you purchase it, that they also can service…it requires special training and licenses to work on kneeling vans.




"Suicide knob " for steering on the R. of steering wheel, and hand control to the left of the steering column. Toyota Van

Hand controls can be different according to your need and who makes them.  Mine are mounted on the left of the steering column.  You push towards the dash for Brakes and pull down towards the floor for the gas.  You steer with 1 hand using a “suicide knob” that is on the steering wheel.  I drove this car with the lift for about a year.  It had power steering, but I found that after I moved to SC, I needed a better system than a lift on the rear of my car.   



I was able to buy a basic (and I really mean BASIC) van.  It had no windows, floor or headliner!  The dealership had big windows put in it and added carpet and a headliner.  They also assisted me in getting hand controls installed and a Braun lift (at the time, the best in the industry)  for my scooter, out of the BACK of my van.  In 1991, where I live, I needed to go out of the back due to the lack of parking spaces available for a side loading van.  I was always having trouble with the doors opening in sequence….the Braun lift never failed me!  I found that in time, I was getting too weak to drive it because of the lack of power steering.  Our 15 year old daughter got her daytime driver’s license and drove me a lot of places.  She was 92 lbs. and 4′ 11″.  I wish I had a picture of her driving that HUGE van!  We really got some looks when people saw her driving me!  🙂  Eventually, I had to think about upgrading…  



When I traded in the big van, I bought a kneeling van, converted by IMS and added handicapped options to the already modified van.  The “kneeling vans” are taken to special factory where they cut the floor out of the van and lower it 13 inches.  Then they put in an automatic ramp, that comes out while the van is kneeling and your side door is sliding open.  (this ramp came DOWN out of the side door).  My front passenger seat was removable, so I could put another wheelchair in that spot. My friend rode up front in her chair when she visited me.  


I ordered the 6 way seats on the driver’s side as well as the passenger side.  I can turn the seat completely backward and raise it to enable simple transfer from my wheelchair to either seat.    


3 Responses to “VANS and LIFTS”

  1. lindaonwheels September 11, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    You know, I have always wondered why SC doesn’t require there to be a “restriction” on my Drivers Liscense to drive only with Hand Controls! They put restrictions when you have to wear glasses for goodness sake! It isn’t easy to learn to use hand controls.

  2. lindaonwheels September 7, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    Have you considered just removing the driver’s seat and having an Easy Lock installed in the floor for your wheelchair so you can drive FROM your wheelchair? Unless you just want to trade the van for other reasons, this might be a good way (at least for a little while) to resolve this issue…..I also used a TRANSFER BOARD (bought pretty inexpensively at my Medical Supply Store) to transfer from my wheelchair to my drivers seat (turned backwards and raised to the level of my wheelchair, like in the picture) when my foot was broken. It was a life saver! I couldn’t put any weight on that broken foot (on my “good” leg) and my arms alone weren’t strong enough to transfer without at least 1 good foot on the floor, so it worked perfectly.

  3. jazzyroller September 6, 2010 at 5:07 pm #

    This is a terrific article! I do relate to everything said here. You can see pictures of my van, hand controls, and lift on our PPS facebook website. I hope to buy another van next year that will allow me to stay in my wheelchair as transfers are becoming more and more difficult. I have very strong arms, but as I age, even stong arms are beginning to fail me. After a got my driver’s license back I learned that I have to renew every year for the rest of my life. My doctor has to fill out a massive form for me every year. What a pain!

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